UUP councillors back community centre on IRA name GAA site

The gates of the club at Glenariff

The gates of the club at Glenariff

Funding has been granted for a community centre on the site of a GAA club which recently found itself engulfed in an IRA naming controversy.

Councillors from the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council – including some from the UUP – have tonight voted in favour of giving £180,000-worth of cash for a new centre in Glenariff, east Antrim.

It will be on a site currently used by the Glenariffe Oisins, a Gaelic sports club.

A dispute developed earlier in the year around the funding, with some of the concerns centring on the name of the venue’s gates.

They bear the words ‘McAllister & McVeigh Memorial Park’ – honouring two old IRA men who died in the 1920s.

As reported on Tuesday, members of the GAA club had voted in favour of moving the gates in order to try and attain funding for the project.

DUP councillor Trevor Clarke had told the News Letter the gates alone were not the only issue,and that the very fact the park is named for the IRA men was a problem.

He also stressed that he and his colleagues had a number of problems with the process and procedures surrounding the bid for funding.

It is understood that Tuesday night’s decision to approve the cash was passed by 19 votes to 18, and that all unionists had voted solidly against it – except the UUP.

Six UUP councillors voted to back the scheme, with three voting against.

Councillor Clarke said he was “absolutely astonished that the majority of Ulster Unionist councillors saw fit to endorse proposals to fund a scheme on grounds named after IRA terrorists”.

UUP councillor Joan Baird said the site at present is only home to a some changing rooms for the GAA club and some male toilets.

Once finished, the centre will include space for a play group and a place for young mothers to meet, and more.

Despite the name on the gates, she has only ever heard the playing fields referred to as “Oisin’s hurling plot”, adding that the era of McVeigh and McAllister was “a very, very long time ago”.

When the DUP’s criticism was put to her she said: “I’d just say it’s totally hypocritical of the DUP to say anything like that. After all, they’re sitting in government in Stormont with Sinn Fein, day in day out.

“I’d just say the Ulster Unionists felt they were doing what’s right for Northern Ireland and doing what’s right for the citizens of our borough.”

The £180,000 funding represents one third of the total cost of the project, she added, with the council meeting none of the further day-to-day running costs.